5 Political Books Like It Can’t Happen Here

Dystopian Politics Books

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis is a dystopian novel, although it differs from the slightly more sci-fi dystopian like Brave New World or The Handmaid’s Tale. It is a political drama written in 1935 while Franklin D. Roosevelt was in his first of several terms of presidency. At the time, Mussolini and Hitler had risen to power in Europe, Italy, and Germany, respectively, but World War II hadn’t erupted.

In an era where the line between fiction and reality blurs, stories like Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here” resonate more deeply than ever. If this cautionary tale of democracy’s downfall and the rise of tyranny captured your imagination and stoked your hunger for more explorations of similar themes, then you’re in the right place. This post is a curated journey through books that echo the warnings, insights, and resistance found in Lewis’s prophetic narrative.

From dystopian futures to historical dramas that feel uncomfortably close to our present, these stories challenge us to reflect, question, and engage with the world around us. So, brace yourself for a literary exploration that’s not only captivating but also changes the way you see the world. Let’s uncover the books that remind us, page by page, why vigilance, empathy, and action are essential in safeguarding the freedoms we often take for granted.

5 Books Like It Can’t Happen Here

Books like “It Can’t Happen Here” explore the dynamics of political extremism and the manipulation of fear and insecurity for political gain. These stories examine how demagogues exploit societal divisions and grievances to consolidate power and suppress dissent, offering insights into the mechanisms of tyranny and oppression.

Here are five books that offer incisive social commentary on contemporary issues such as populism, nationalism, and the erosion of democratic norms. Moreover, these stories reflect the anxieties and tensions of their time, shedding light on the social, political, and economic forces that shape society and influence political behavior. Let’s go!

NameKey FocusRating (Goodreads)
The Iron Heel by Jack LondonA socialist shows the socialism, politics, poverty, and culture of the past and future.3.7
The Plot Against America by Philip RothA Jewish boy describes the war situation in 1940 with fascism, humor, and politics.3.7
U.S.A.: The 42nd Parallel by John Dos PassosThe author talks about his childhood with communism and represents the American culture.4.1
The Jungle by Upton SinclairA Lithuanian man struggles with his family for work and wages through a hard situation.3.7
1984 by George OrwellA middle-aged man is trapped in a totalitarian society, trying to free himself and deal with difficulties.4.1
Books Like It Can’t Happen Here List

1. The Iron Heel

The Iron Heel was published in 1907 and describes a change from the present 1907 society to a dystopia as the socialists try to revolt against the capitalists. The capitalists are much stronger and more vicious than the social staff. The main character’s name is Everhard, and he is a socialist. The narrator is a woman who becomes his fiancee and then-wife.

Also, the book is seen from 700 years in the future. The footnotes are by a socialist society looking back and describing and sometimes finding humorous many of the events in the books mixed up. So, while people call it a dystopia at the time, it would have been future history. Many of us will get it as alternate history because many events didn’t happen.

Most of the book is a lecture about socialism. Jack London was born in poverty, but he became quite rich. But before that, he saw the poor and the lower class all around him. He worked in the factories for pennies a day and felt things needed to be changed. The problem is why he’s a great writer in some respects when it comes to The Iron Heel. It comes out, especially the first part, as a document, a political pamphlet given out on the streets.

While he does quote a lot of information about the labor conditions, poverty, and prostitution. Even though he experienced and saw much of it firsthand, it became a little boring. The book’s second part is about the revolt, the fact that the socialists tried to overthrow the capitalist system, which we would call fascism today. In doing so, they fail and give the capitalists a reason to strengthen their whole to the point where it does become a fascist state.

So, Everhard continuously looks at the socialists with him and keeps talking about the next election. While Everhard doesn’t believe in violence, he sees the class struggle as violent. The result is a feeling that Everhard and Jack London are leaning more towards communism than socialism. Also, the end of the book deals with one of the revolts, and it’s a ruthless book like It Can’t Happen Here. If you’re interested in the history of philosophy or political thought, read it.

The Iron Heel

Author: Jack London
Tropes: Politics, Culture, Activism, Revolution, Utopic
Number Of Pages: 160
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Mass Market Paperback

2. The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America was an exciting piece of alternate historical fiction. Philip Roth asks, What if FDR had been defeated in his presidential run for a third term by the charismatic anti-Semitic Charles Lindbergh? This main campaign promised to keep the US out of World War Two while having a darker motive for acquiring great power. The war tells his story in a macro way, as well as going micro and showing the impact of Lindbergh’s presidency through the eyes of a boy in a Jewish family living in Newark, New Jersey.

I decided to read this book upon learning that HBO is making a movie adaptation of it. Portions of it are being filmed in my neighborhood. I took the opportunity to visit the filming site when it was taking place a few blocks from my house. So, it was a very cool experience made cooler by hanging out with a few extras.

Parallels between the 1940s or Roth’s imagination and our current political climate are striking. In the book, Germany has the idea of a man ascending to the presidency aided by a foreign government. In the case of Switch, a celebrity with no previous political experience, Russia has an improbable meteoric rise to the White House. With a celebrity with no previous political experience, having an improbable meteoric rise to the White House, switch people being thrown into concentration camps because they’re Jewish.

One is hypothetical, and one is hypothetical fiction. The deeper into the book is how Roth seems to be stealing from a reality that has not happened yet. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for a great, memorable story like It Can’t Happen Here. I found some writing issues as a subject matter, but it’s okay. You must read it if you are American or want to know American history, specifically 1940.

The Plot Against America

Author: Philip Roth
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Tropes: Jewish Literature, Fascism, Humor, War
Number Of Pages: 391
Item Weight: 11 ounces
Narrator: Ron Silver
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Mass Market Paperback | MP3 CD

3. U.S.A.: The 42nd Parallel / 1919 / The Big Money

The 42nd Parallel is the 20th Century of American Fiction. Author John Dos Passos was the illegitimate son of a Portuguese lawyer who later married Dos Passos’s mother. But he had a chaotic childhood and chaotic life, too. He was fascinated by communism for a while. Then, eventually, he completely dismissed that whole theory and became extremely conservative.

Also, John supported Goldwater and Nixon, which seriously damaged his literary career. But before that, he wrote this trilogy that is considered by a lot of people one of the best examples of study studying American culture ever written. We have twelve main characters throughout the trilogy, each beginning from their childhood and lives chronologically. They all struggle for security, comfort, and stability in that time.

As historical fiction, all the books have complexity. So you must read slowly and give yourself time to understand properly. The author used a very different technique for the narrative of these novels and incorporated newspaper clippings and lyrics from songs. It’s stream-of-consciousness writing, but all three books blew me away. If you like It Can’t Happen Here, you will also love these books. The hardcover quality is average for font style, color, and binding/cover.

The 42nd Parallel

Author: John Dos Passos
Publisher: Library of America
Tropes: World war, American history, Self-help, Criminals & Lawyers
Number Of Pages: 1312
Available: Hardcover

4. The Jungle

The Jungle is a best-seller book that tells a story about a man (Jurgis ) and his Lithuanian family. They moved to America, seeking jobs and trying to make it. You see the harsh working conditions and wages people must accept because thousands of others will take that position. Jurgis wants American work and gets his job immediately at this meat packing plant. The book shows the gruesomeness and horrific conditions that the people work in and the pathetic situation of the employees.

I don’t want to ruin the story because it teleports you as It Can’t Happen Here. This thing takes you there, and you are along for the ride. I love that because they give you perspective on people’s harsh and horrible trials. So this book opens you up to the environment, and everybody should read it because it will give you perspective on how harsh people had it before there were some guidelines and regulations. Don’t pick the hardcover because it has some issues, but the paperback is perfect for everyone.

The Jungle

Author: Upton Sinclair
Publisher: Chump Change
Tropes: Philosophy, History, Classic, Academic
Number Of Pages: 188
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Spiral-bound | Mass Market Paperback

5. 1984

1984 is a dystopian best-seller of political literature. We follow a man named Winston Smith, a middle-aged man living in a totalitarian society. There is one entity, the party called Big Brother, that oversees and controls everything. They control what you should and should not do, what you can and cannot do, and even think. Cameras and videos are everywhere that you can’t hide from the organization. They also control all information, all news.

Smith’s not in a position where he’s making decisions and has no authority in the party, but he works for the party specifically. So this is a story about him who is completely trapped. Many themes and things that we see happen in this book are even more relevant today than when it was written. You’re going to wonder what will happen to Winston next.

When you finish the book, you will feel drained and exhausted by it. It makes you think about where we are as a whole society. George Orwell is a great author. So please read it if you want to know more about the political environment of 1984.


Author: George Orwell
Publisher: SNR Audio
Tropes: Satire, Dystopia, Thrillers
Number Of Pages: 298
Narrator: Hugh Kermode
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback

The stories we’ve delved into mirror our times, reflecting the complexities of power, the importance of individual and collective action, and the unending quest for justice and liberty. Whether these narratives have left you with a sense of unease, a renewed commitment to engagement, or a deeper appreciation for the resilience of the human spirit, we hope they’ve ignited a spark within you.

In a world where the pen remains mightier than the sword, may these books inspire you to think critically, empathize deeply, and contribute to a society where “It Can’t Happen Here” remains firmly within the realm of fiction. Until our next literary adventure, keep reading, questioning, and fighting for the world you believe in.

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Pauline Jackson

I like to talk about popular books. My book review inspires you to read and save time. Also, I summarize the book and give you the best lessons or ideas that can change your life. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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